Lessons from a founder

August 20th, 2020 Written by Infinity Works

The rapidly evolving journey from employment at Sky Bet in 2014, via short term contracts with the NHS, to establishing and growing a team of over 400 employees at Infinity Works has taught one of our founders, Paul Henshaw, many valuable lessons.

Here Paul shares what he’s learned along the way over the past six years, from people he’s met, mistakes he’s made, and things the founders have learned to let go and leave to the specialists!

“Work your socks off

The hard reality is that it doesn’t come easily! You’ll typically be mixing “doing a day job” (e.g. consultancy, for us) with “running the business in whatever hours you have left in a day / weekend”. You’re very lucky if you can do one without the other!

Hire great people – then look after them, challenge them and give them responsibility and autonomy

Hiring great leaders is so important – you need them to take ownership of the things you can’t do, and get out of their way once they’re running with it. They’ll become your leaders of the future, and the worst thing you can do is step on their toes, micro-manage them or stand in their way.

Be prepared to give up the things you thought were important at the start

I’m sure we weren’t the only ones who started off not wanting job titles, or career models and personal development plans – and that’s fine for the first year or so, when everyone is joining a ‘cool startup’ (or as cool as we ever were!). And that works for the first group of people you hire, who are probably experienced and leaders, and enjoy the lack of structure and autonomy (and hated all that ‘corporate’ stuff elsewhere). But then people start asking how they get promoted (to what?!), and how you’re going to develop their career. Oh. So you have to grow up, and add ‘just enough’ rigour to the business and outline how you help your team improve and develop their careers. It might not be what we wanted to be, but that’s what your team wants, so suck it up!

Repeated tactical successes

Our previous non-exec director had this mantra, and he was totally right as you build your business – it’s not (always) about being a strategic genius, but you typically grow by doing the things you’re good at REALLY well, and repeatedly. Don’t lose sight of that!

Start to develop a vision, with more clarity each year

Repeated tactical successes are great, but make sure your team understands where you’re going and buy into your project. As you get bigger, and need to compete more for talented people to join your team, they need to know it’s something they want to be part of and can grow with you. When they do, you can rocket!

Don’t wait too long to hire specialists

It’s really tempting to think that you’re a HR / People genius, and that you don’t need a proper Finance or Legal person / team. And then you realise how complicated that stuff can be, and you do it really badly! It’s a false economy doing that stuff yourself eventually! Bringing those specialists in liberates you and your business and allows you to focus on the stuff you’re brilliant at.

 

What lessons have you learnt along your career journey?